HSE Winter Plan: €600m to be spent to 'protect' hospitals

HSE Winter Plan: €600m to be spent to 'protect' hospitals

The HSE has pledged to provide 1,500 extra hospital beds, including 900 acute care beds. Picture: File Picture/Pexels

Some 1,500 additional hospital beds, including 900 acute care beds, and more than 50 critical care beds, are to be announced under the Health Service Executive (HSE) Winter plan, which will be published later today.

Under the plan, the HSE says it will spend an additional €600m on Irish hospitals - €200m this year, and €400m in 2021.

The plan will remain in place until April of next year.

The HSE also says it will employ extra staff, though it has not yet indicated how many, in the hopes of reducing hospital waiting list times across the country and relieving some of the pressure on Irish emergency departments.

Speaking this morning, HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid said that the coming winter would be “more difficult than any we’ve ever faced before. 

He said: "We are living with Covid-19, we are living differently, however we have planned differently and we have to take confidence in our Winter Plan. 

By ensuring agility and innovative healthcare measures, we can prioritise the health and wellbeing of our staff and the public, through the provision of healthcare pathways in the community and in our hospitals.

Mr Reid urged the public to follow health advice, and said that "the worst thing we can do is to get complacent."

"I am also asking those within the priority groups to ensure they get the flu vaccine and give themselves the best opportunity to stay well this winter,” he added.

The plan will include a pledge to provide almost five million extra hours of home care support and to allow further GP access to diagnostics in public and private hospitals.

Winter is typically the most challenging time of year for Irish hospitals, and the HSE does publish a detailed winter plan each year.

A big emphasis is to be placed on the uptake of the flu vaccine.

This year, however, the plan has taken on particular importance, given the outbreak of the coronavirus. 

Speaking to Newstalk this morning, Consultant at Tallaght Hospital, Dr Anthony O’Connor, said he hoped the plan would be a "radical" one.

He said: "If you look at the situation we have every winter in our hospitals, Covid or no Covid, its crisis time, with 700 people on trollies.

"Throwing Covid in on top of that, I think the time is right for us to be radical and fix all those problems we’ve had for years like capacity like staffing, and even the sort of configuration of services particularly in large cities like Dublin and Cork."

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